Archive for March, 2011

Antiscience campaigns often share the characteristic that they

A schematic of a climate model - By NOAA via WikiMedia Commons; click for sauce.

complain about the open questions, anomalies, and experimental limitations inscience. Scientists, on the other hand, work

hard to resolve these issues. Creationists complain about uncertainties on the chemical origins of life; biochemists generate and test hypotheses, developing useful technology and techniques in the process. (Bullard et al. 2006) A paper, championed by climate change skuptix, (eg, here) complains about the use of large flux corrections in climate models. (Soon et al. 2001) It was published a decade ago.

What was the state of computation back in 2001? There were no iPhones; cellphones still had hinges and were just starting to become controversial in schools. I didn’t see an iPod until late 2002, and for a long time it was just one person who had one*. We had just started trading AIM screen names instead of phone numbers. There was no Facebook, there was no Twitter, there was no YouTube. Xanga didn’t even appear on my radar until 2003. The Flash Revolution was in its infancy: StrongBad answered his first email in August 2001. It was, simply put, Peanut Butter Jelly Time.

Since then, while skuptix have done little more than whine, climatologists have been hard at work  improving climate models. It’s 2011 and climate models no longer use flux corrections. They still confirm the obvious: blankets are warm. More blankets are warmer.

* <3 :P


Bullard, T., Freudenthal, J., Avagyan, S., & Kahr, B. (2007). Test of Cairns-Smith’s ‘crystals-as-genes’ hypothesis Faraday Discussions, 136 DOI: 10.1039/b616612c

Soon, W., Baliunas, S., Idso, S., Kondratyev, K., & Posmentier, E. (2001). Modeling climatic effects of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions: unknowns and uncertainties Climate Research, 18, 259-275 DOI: 10.3354/cr018259

DIY Spectro II

There is a more philosophically focussed companion article over at ArkFab.

At long last, second generation DIY spectro has arrived!

The spectrophotometer. Yes, that is an invisibility cloak. You can't see the stuff that's under it can you? Then that stuff is invisible!

If you recall, when last we left our humble spectrophotometer, it was a shambling mess of stone-age technology. Now, its a shambling mess of information-age technology!

Let’s take a closer look… Continue reading

… but there is cool stuff on the way, as soon as I get a chance to sit down and write it. Stay tuned.



A Detective Story

About to run the Final Qualifying Round for some second generation DIY Spectro, I placed the first blank into the cuvette holder, and pressed start (or rather ran python; I’m tryna measure a spectrum, gosh!). The machine hummed into action, now that the motor control wire was plugged into slot 9, which the computer was communicating with rather than slot 2, which the computer was not.

A few minutes later I got the results: Nothing. The machine was not seeing any light. At all.

See, normally when I scan a blank sample, the detector (which has different sensitivities at different colors) shows a characteristic hill shape:

Some typical blank sample runs. Horizontal axis is motor position in degrees (0-180) and vertical axis is detector response. Black is the mean of the time series coming from the detector at a given motor position (1 sec data per degree); green is the standard deviation of the time series, and red denotes the maxima/minima. Time series were preprocessed to remove annoying serial communications glitches.

But when I ran this blank: Continue reading

A part of my John Everett series – read more: 0/I - II.0 - II.5 - II.75 -  III.0 - III.3 - IV.0 - IV.4 - IV.8 - V - VII - VIII - Full Report 

The last part of Dr. Everett’s testimony presents his conclusions. Much of it is simply reiteration ofclaims he has already

Fig. 1. The rate of change in atmospheric carbon dioxide, based upon gas samples from three ice cores (Law Dome, Taylor Dome, and Vostok) and direct measurements at Mauna Loa Observatory. Data courtesy of NOAA Paleoclimatology and ESRL (see endnotes). Click for full.

made, but he also takes the opportunity to thicken the smoke screen just a little bit more. Some parts are mundane: ‘The most important approach [...] is to examine what happened during past times.’ I completely agree! See Fig. 1. But other parts are more problematic. Here’s a quick flyby:

He claims ‘There is no reliable observational evidence of negative trends that can be traced definitively to lowered pH of the water’, and dismissing experimental results. However, studies meeting his criteria exist, and they demonstrate negative consequences.

He demands that experiments be run over sufficient generations to allow for adaptation, but he doesn’t say how many generations are sufficient. This leaves any study demonstrating negative effects open to rejection by moving the goalposts for sufficient experimental length. Ironically, a paper which Dr. Everett had earlier claimed cast doubt upon acidification studies mentions the short time scales of current experiments, but concludes that it could well be masking the more severe effects of acidification:

‘Although suppression of metabolism under short-term experimental conditions is a “sublethal” reversible process, reductions in growth and reproductive output will effectively diminish the survival of the species on longer time-scales.’  (Fabry et al. 2008)

Conclusions he doesn’t like can be further dismissed: ‘If there were [an observation of deletrious effects of acidification], it would be suspect because there is insignificant change relative to past climates of the Earth.’ We have seen this statement to be simply incorrect. He fails to give further support for this position, stating that ‘Scientific studies, and papers reviewing science studies, have similar messages’, but not giving us any examples.

Continue reading


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